Prof Jamie Davies

Jamie Davies
  • Prof Jamie Davies
  • Professor of Experimental Anatomy
  • Hugh Robson Building room 333 15 George Square
  • Edinburgh EH8 9XD
  • Work: +44 (0)131 650 2999
The Davies Lab website

One of my main research interests is to understand the morphogenesis of mammalian tissues.

Personal profile

  • Fellow of the Society of Biology, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Currently deputy Chairman of the National Centre for 3Rs
  • 1995-present: Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor, University of Edinburgh
  • 1991-1995: CRC Research Fellow, University of Manchester
  • 1989-1991: CRC Research Fellow, University of Southampton
  • 1983-1989: BA, MA and PhD at University of Cambridge


Prof Davies’ main research interest is in the development of biological form in foetal life, and how knowledge of this can be applied medically. There are three main aspects to this.

  • Developmental Biology, particularly of developing organs. This involves basic research into how populations of cells organize themselves, by internal and external signal, to generate complex anatomies from simple beginnings.
  • Tissue Engineering, especially a programme of research aiming to build a working kidney from stem cells. So far, starting from foetal mouse stem cells, our technique can produce very small, immature kidneys in culture that can nevertheless filter blood when transplanted into adult host animals. The eventual aim - still a long way off - is to produce working, transplantable kidneys from human stem cells.
  • Synthetic Biology: both in order to test current theories of tissue development and to extent the scope of tissue engineering, we are using synthetic biological techniques to program cells to generate designed (non-natural) patterns and forms, driven by artificial genetic modules. We call this approach ‘synthetic morphology’.

The lab specializes in using approaches that minimize animal use, and Davies has recently published a book to spread knowledge of these techniques.

In addition, the lab hosts the editorial office of the GUDMAP database of gene expression in urogenital development -

Kidney grown in culture

Figure 1: This is a typical tool of the lab: a kidney grown in culture from just a few dozen cells.


  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • EU Framework VII
  • Leverhulme Trust
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs)
  • Wellcome Trust

Team members

  • Dr Jane Armstrong
  • Dr Jane Brennan
  • Dr Elise Cachat
  • Roland Partridge
  • C-Hong Chang
  • Weijia Liu
  • Sue Lloyd-MacGilp
  • Kim Martin
  • Tom Nieskens
  • Greg Stimac
  • Melanie Lawrence



Mechanisms of Morphogenesis (2005: Academic Press) - Edition 2 is currently in press for 2013.

Branching Morphogenesis (2004: Springer).

Tissue Regeneration (2012: InTech).

Replacing Animal Models: a practical guide to creating and using culture-based biomimetic alternatives (2012: Wiley-Blackwell).

Life Unfolding (Feb 2014: OUP in press).

Research papers (last 10 years)

Davies JA & Fisher CE (2002) “Genes in renal development” Experimental Nephrology 10: 102-113

Davies JA (2002). The individual success of musicians, like that of physicists, follows a stretched exponential distribution. Eur Physics J B 27:445-447 This paper was the subject of an article in The Guardian, 18th July 2002

Davies JA (2002). The Kidney Development Database. Chapter in Analyzing Gene Expression

Davies JA (2002) Morphogenesis of the kidney. ScientificWorldjournal 2: 1937-1950-

Davies JA (2002) Do different branching epithelia use a conserved developmental mechanism? BioEssays. 24: 937-948

Barnett MW, Fisher CE, Perona-Wright G, Davies JA (2002) Signalling by glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) requires heparan sulphate lycosaminoglycan. J Cell Sci 115: 4495-4503

Davies JA (2003) Journals: impact factors are too highly valued. (letter) Nature 421: 210.

Davies JA (2003) Development of the collecting duct system - chapter in “The Development of the Kidney (Eds Bard and Vize, Academic Press).

Davies JA (2003) “Glycosaminoglycans: important modulators of developmental signalling" 'Recent Research Developments in Biochemistry' 4: 283-301.

Davies JA, Yates E, Turnbull J (2003) Importance of 2-O-sulphation for interactions between heparin and the GDNF signalling system. Growth Factors 21: 109-119

Davies JA, Ladomery M, Hohenstein P, Michael L, Spraggon L, Schafe A, Freeman T, Hastie N (2004). Development of an siRNA-based method for repressing specific genes in renal organ culture and its use to show that the Wt1 tumour suppressor is required for nephron differentiation. Hum Mol Genet. 13: 235-46

Davies JA (2004) “Inverse correlation between an organ’s cancer rate and its evolutionary antiquity." Organogenesis 1: 60-63

Davies JA (2005) Branching morphogenesis in the mammalian kidney. In Davies JA (Ed) Branching Morphogenesis. Landes Biomedical. In press for April 2005.

Davies JA (2005) Why a book on branching morphogenesis, and why now? In Davies JA (Ed) Branching Morphogenesis. Landes Biomedical.

Michael L, Davies JA (2004) Pattern and regulation of cell proliferation during morphogenesis of the mouse ureteric bud. J. Anat 204: 241-255.

Davies JA (2005) “Watching tubules glow and branch” Curr Op Genet Devel 15:364-370

Michael L, Sweeney DE, Davies JA (2005) “A role for microfilament-based contraction in branching morphogenesis of the ureteric bud”. Kidney International 68: 2010-2018

Willnow TE, Antignac C, Brändli A, Christensen EI, Cox RD, Davidson D, Davies JA, Devuyst O, Eichele E, Hastie N, Verroust P, Schedl A, Meij IC (2005) The European Renal Genome Project - an integrated approach towards understanding the genetics of kidney development and disease. Organogenesis, 2:42-47

Davies JA, Armstrong J (2006) The anatomy of organogenesis: novel solutions to old problems. Progr. Histochem Cytochem 40:165-176.

Lee WC and Davies JA (2006). Dapper1 and dapper2 are expressed in distinct parts of developing metanephroi. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 21(Suppl 4): 18-9

Davies JA (2006) Branching Morphogenesis of Mammalian epithelia. Chapter in Principles of developmental genetics

Davies JA (2006) A method for cold storage and transport of viable kidney rudiments. Kidney International 70, 2031-2034.

Michael L, Sweeney D, Davies JA (2007) The lectin, Dolichos biflorus agglutinin, is a sensitive indicator of branching morphogenetic activity in the developing mouse metanephric collecting duct system. J. Anat. 210: 89-97

Murray P, Camussi G, Davies J, Egdar D, Hengstschlaeger M, Kenny M, Remuzzi G, Werner C. (2007) The KIDSTEM European Research Training Network. Organogenesis 3: 2-4

Lee W-C & Davies JA (2007) Epithelial branching: the power of self loathing. BioEssays 29: 205-7

Little M, Brennan J, Georgas K, Davies J, Davidson D, Beverdam A, Bertram J, Capel B, Christiansen E, Cullen L, Fleming J, Gilbert T, Herzlinger D, Kaufman M, Kleymenova E, Koopman P, Kris W, Lewis A, McMahon A, Mendelsohn C, Mitchell E, Saunders P, Spencer T, Spears N, Sweeney D, Thomson A, Valerius T, Yamada G, Yu J. (2007). High-resolution anatomical ontologies for the annotation of the developing murine genitourinary tract. Gene Expr Patterns 7: 680-99.

Davies JA (2007) Developmental biologists’ choice of subjects approximates to a power law, with no evidence for the existence of a special group of ‘model organisms’. BMC Dev Biol (2007) 1;7:40

Blenkiron M, Arvind DK, Davies JA (2007) Design of an irreversible DNA memory element. Natural Computing 6: 403-411

Lee, WC, Berry, R, Hohenstein, P and Davies, JA (2008) siRNA as a tool for investigating organogenesis - the pitfalls and the promises. Organogenesis 4(3):176-81.

Davies JA (2008) Cellular Mechanisms of Morphogenesis. Scholarpedia 3(2): 3615

Davies JA (2008) Synthetic Morphology: prospects for engineered, self-constructing anatomies. J. Anat 212:707-19

McMahon AP, Aronow B, Davidson D, Davies JA, Gaido K, Grimmond S, Lessard J, Little M, Potter S, Wilder E, Zhang P (2008) GUDMAP - the genito-urinary developmental molecular anatomy project. J. Am Soc Nephrol 19: 667-671.

Sweeney D, Lindström N, Davies JA (2008) Developmental plasticity and regenerative capacity in the renal ureteric bud/collecting duct system. Development 135:2505-2510.

Unbekandt M & Davies JA (2009) Control of Organogenesis. Chapter in Meyer U, Meyer T, Handschel J and Wiesmann H (Eds) Fundamentals of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine ( Springer) pp 61-70

Davies JA (2009) Mammalian embryo: branching morphogenesis. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences Article A741

Davies JA (2009) Synthetic morphology: modules for engineering biological form. In Columbus F (Ed.), Synthetic Biology: Parts and Systems, Design Theory and Applications in press.

Davies JA (2009) Regulation, necessity, and the misinterpretation of knockouts. BioEssays 31:826-30

Unbekandt M, Davies JA (2010) Dissociation of embryonic kidneys followed by reaggregation allows the formation of renal tissues. Kidney International 77: 406-416

Davies JA (2010) The embryonic kidney: isolation, organ culture, immunostaining and RNA interference. Meth Molec Biol 633:57-69.

Sebinger DDR, Unbekandt U, Ganeva V, Ofenbauer A, Werner C & Davies JA (2010) A novel, low-volume method for organ culture of embryonic kidneys that allows development of cortico-medullary anatomical organization. PLoS One 5(5): e10550. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010550

Siegel N, Rosner M, Unbekandt M, Fuchs C, Slabina N, Dolznig H, Davies JA, Lubec G, Hengstschläger M (2010) Contribution of human amniotic fluid stem cells to renal tissue formation depends on mTOR. Hum Molec Genet 19: 3320-31.

Lee W-C, Hough M T, Liu W, Ekiert R, Lindstrom N O, Hohenstein P, Davies JA (2010) Dact2 is expressed in renal collecting ducts and controls morphogenetic behaviour of renal epithelial cells. Am J Physiol 299(4): F740- 51.

Berry R, Harewood L, Pei L, Fisher M, Brownstein D, Ross A, Moss J, Hastie ND, Hohenstein P, Davies J, Evans RM, FitzPatrick DR (2011) Esrrg functions in early branch generation of the ureteric bud and is essential for normal development of the renal papilla. Human Molecular Genetics 20: 917-26.

Ganeva V, Unbekandt M, Davies JA (2011) An improved kidney dissociation and re-aggregation culture system results in nephrons arranged organotypically around a single collecting duct system. Organogenesis 2011. Apr 1;7(2):83-7

Burn SF, Webb A, Berry RL, Davies JA, Hastie ND, Hohenstein P (2011) Calcium/ NFAT signalling promotes early nephrogenesis. Dev Biol 352: 288-298

Harding, S.D., Armit, C., Armstrong, J., Brennan, J., Cheng Y, Haggarty B, Houghton, D., Lloyd-MacGilp, S., Pi, X., Roochun Y, Sharghi, M., Tindal C, McMahon A, Goodison B, Little MH, Georgas K, Aronow B, Baldock RA, Davies JA, Davidson, D. (2011) The GUDMAP Database - An Online Resource for Genitourinary Research. Development 138: 2845-2853..

Essafi A, Webb A, Berry RL, Slight J, Burn SF, Spraggon L, Velecala V, Martinez-Estrada OM, Wiltshire JH, Roberts SGE, Davies JA, Hastie ND, Hohenstein P (2011) A Wt1-controlled chromatin switching mechanism underpins tissue-specific Wnt4 activation and repression. Dev Cell. 21:559-74

Davies JA (2011) Self-organization as a tool in mammalian tissue engineering. Chapter for Regenerative Medicine (Ed Winslet-Gendebien, S). 261-274. Intech. ISBN 978-953-307-838-0. Davies JA, Unbekandt M, Ineson J, Lusis M, Little M (2012) Dissociation of Embryonic Kidney Followed by Re-aggregation as a Method for Chimeric Analysis. Methods Mol Biol. 2012;886:135-46.

Tai G, Hohenstein P, Davies JA (2012) Making immortalized cell lines from embryonic mouse kidney. Methods Mol Biol. 886:165-71.

Davies JA, Unbekandt (2012) siRNA-mediated RNA interference in embryonic kidney organ culture. Methods Mol Biol. 886:295-303

Davies JA, Little M, Aronow B, Armstrong J, Brennan J, Lloyd-MacGilp S, Armit C, Harding S, Piu X, Rochun Y, Haggarty B, Houghton D, Davidson D, Baldock R (2012) Access and Use of the GUDMAP Database of Genitourinary Development. Methods Mol Biol. 2012;886:185-201.

Davies JA (2012) Foetal Organ Culture, in Replacing animal models: a practical guide to creating and using culture-based biomimetic alternatives (Ed. Davies JA) Wiley-Blackwell

Tai G, Davies JA (2012) Hierarchical screening of pathways: using cell and organ cultures to reduce the use of transgenic mice. Chapter for Replacing animal models: a practical guide to creating and using culture-based biomimetic alternatives (Ed. Davies JA). Wiley-Blackwell

Davies JA (2012) Potential advantages of using biomimetic alternatives. Chapter for Replacing animal models: a practical guide to creating and using culture-based biomimetic alternatives (Ed. Davies JA). Wiley-Blackwell

Davies JA (2012) Overview of biomimetic alternatives. Chapter for Replacing animal models: a practical guide to creating and using culture-based biomimetic alternatives (Ed. Davies JA). Wiley-Blackwell

Davies JA (2012) (Ed) Replacing animal models: a practical guide to creating and using culture-based biomimetic alternatives. Wiley-Blackwell. Chi L, Saarela U, Railo A, Prunskaite-Hyyryläinen R, Skovorodkin I, Anthony S,Katsu K, Liu Y, Shan J, Salgueiro AM, Belo JA, Davies J, Yokouchi Y, Vainio SJ. (2011) A secreted BMP antagonist, Cer1, fine tunes the spatial organization of the ureteric bud tree during mouse kidney development.PloS ONE 2011;6(11):e27676.

Kuzma-Kuzniarska M, Kenny S, Edgar D, Wilm B, Davies J A., Murray P (2012) Integration potential of mouse and human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. Differentiation 83:128-37

Cachat E & Davies JA (2012) Application of synthetic biology to regenerative medicine. J Bioeng & Biomed Sci doi 2155-9538.S2-003

Woolf AS, Davies JA (2012) Development of the ureter. JASN in press.

Partridge R, Conlisk N, Davies JA (2012) In-lab 3-dimensional printing: an inexpensive tool for experimentation and visualization for the field of organogenesis. Organogenesis in press.

Xinaris C, Benedetti V, Rizzo P, Abbate M, Corna D, Azzolini N, Unbekandt M, Davies JA, Morigi M, Benigni A, and G. Remuzzi G (2012) Engineering of nephrons that are vascularized and functional in vivo, from simple suspensions of embryonic precursor cells. JASN in press (accepted July 2012)

Chang C-H, Davies JA. (2012)An improved method of renal tissue engineering, by combining renal dissociation and re-aggregation with a low-volume culture technique, results in development of engineered kidneys complete with loops of Henle. Nephron: Experimental Nephrology. In press.

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